By Vincent Barone and Grace Moon
As subway service drops, the tweets spike.
The MTA has seen a huge uptick in callouts through social media over the course of the past year as riders navigate service changes or vent about a long train delay.
There were 36,760 social media mentions of the MTA this past May, a 121.9 percent increase from the 16,565 mentions recorded during May of last year.
Sarah Meyer, the MTA’s new chief customer officer, welcomed the tweets and other interactions. She credited the rise in mentions mainly to the rollout of free Wi-Fi underground, which hit most of the subways by early 2017, as well as to the agency’s increased focus on using social media to inform riders.
“On social, the majority of our customers are tweeting about real-time service issues and we know that there’s been a lot of work in the system — both planned and unplanned — but my team and I are personally advocating on our customers’ behalf to make their travel faster and easier, putting out thousands of proactive alerts,” Meyer said at the MTA board’s transit committee meeting on Monday, where she unveiled new monthly commuter feedback data on complaints and rider engagement.
The MTA sent 9,188 responses to the more than 36,000 social media mentions last month. But for riders who feel like they’re just shouting into a void from a dark subway tunnel — and despite the vulgarity with which those riders often use to articulate their delays — Meyer said all the tweets and Facebook posts were valuable to those who track real-time service from the MTA’s Rail Control Center and to those who work at improving subway and bus service.
“Our customers are also an amazing sort of Q-A feedback loop for us in the Rail Control Center and to give feedback to our partners at Subways and Buses and paratransit,” Meyer said. “We welcome and ask our customers to keep reaching out to us.”
Hiring Meyer this March was one of the recent ways in which the MTA has sought to improve rider morale and communication. The authority has hosted a series of Twitter question-and-answer sessions and conducted a Facebook Live video last week with NYC Transit president Andy Byford. Last fall, the MTA dropped “ladies and gentlemen” from subway announcements to be more inclusive.
More generally, the MTA’s beleaguered Access-A-Ride service overwhelmingly received the most complaints compared to the number of trips. This May, Access-A-Ride commuters logged 444.9 complaints per 100,000 trips. Bus service followed as a distant second, with 7.58 complaints per 100,00 trips, while the subways elicited 2.1 complaints.
As riders waited for their trains in the 34th Street-Herald Square station, some were appreciative of the work the MTA is doing to get information out through social media.
“Whenever there are delays, I usually go straight to Google and type in ‘5 train MTA’ and oftentimes it links me to their Twitter account, which is very fast to update riders on delays or if somebody is stuck on the tracks,” said Adam Rasic, 32, a concierge from Manhattan.
But there is obvious room for improvement. Marium Malik, 28, a pediatric doctor from Brooklyn, wasn’t aware that the MTA had its own app with real-time subway information. (The MTA is working toward replacing the app with a better version). And while tweets read crystal clear, in-station or in-train announcements are still muddled.
“The weekends are especially bad,” Malik said, “and when the overhead announcement isn’t clear enough, I usually end up just asking around in person like ‘Did you hear that?’ or ‘What’s happening?’”
Others were hoping the MTA and Transit Wireless, the company overseeing the free Wi-Fi, would soon expand the service into tunnels.
“The free Wi-Fi is a little helpful, but not 100 percent useful because it only works in the stations and not between stations,” said Ana Reichenbach, 29. “If I’m doing research and need to open a website, it’s only there for ten seconds or so and disappears. It would be good if I could use it through the entire commute.”
Harlem subway derailment cost MTA $3.4M in new train cars, track work: report
A subway rail improperly attached to the roadbed led to 39 straphangers getting hurt, two subway cars wrecked — and the MTA on the hook for $3.4 million.
That’s the conclusion of an MTA probe into the June 27, 2017, derailment of an A train in Harlem.
Most of the expense of the crash — $3.1 million — was what it cost to replace the two cars that had to be scrapped.
The rest included $194,047 in parts and labor from the Division of Signals, $105,637 from the Division of Infrastructure and $2,144 in labor from the Division of Track.
The derailment turned a routine morning commute into hell on wheels.
Before the accident, track crews worked to replace a 26-foot piece of rail that had a defect.
To make the fix, crews cut down a new 39-foot piece of rail to 26 feet.
But they failed to properly secure the new rail to the track bed, investigators found. They stowed the unused 13-foot piece of track and another 39-foot track section in the middle of the track bed.
The southbound A train was rolling at between 20 and 25 mph when improperly fastened rails and the loose rails on the trackbed combined to trip the train’s emergency brakes.
The wheels and motors of two train cars derailed as the train slammed into a wall.
Hundreds of straphangers were forced to evacuate through dark subway tunnels.
None of the 39 people hurt in the crash suffered life-threatening injuries.
The derailment was quickly blamed on human error before the start of the rush hour. Two supervisors at the scene during the track work were suspended. The MTA did not provide an update on their suspension and employment status.
After the derailment, MTA officials checked the subway system to make sure materials were stored on the tracks safely, and that crews were instructed on procedures.
The Daily News obtained the report on the crash from the state Public Transportation Safety Board.
The MTA also investigated two derailments on the 7 line near the Mets-Willets Point station in January 2017.
Inspectors found wheel flanges on both derailed trains were so worn down, the cars slid off the tracks. Further checking revealed the flanges were worn down on half of the 7 train fleet.
Subway officials believe the flanges were worn down by a new curved section of track north of the 34th St.-Hudson Yards station that opened in September 2015, the PTSB says. MTA officials are working on a solution to that problem.
Fixing the cars and other damage of the 7 train derailments cost the MTA $50,019.
“Safety is our top priority and though these instances are very rare, any mishap is one too many,” MTA spokesman Shams Tarek said.
“The complete modernization of New York City Transit requires relentless attention to both physical assets and our procedures, and we’re laser-focused on improving both.”
Cuomo demands de Blasio pay $18B subway fixes
Just a few months after Gov. Andrew Cuomo forced the city to foot half the cost of emergency subway repairs, he is now demanding that Mayor Bill de Blasio cough up more than $18 billion to help pay for long-term fixes in the system.
Cuomo said the city has the money to split the costs of a planned massive overhaul of the subway system, which is expected to cost about $37 billion over 10 years.
“Fifty-fifty. Let’s solve it. Let’s stop arguing. Fifty-fifty,” the governor said during an unrelated press conference on Thursday when asked how much the city should pay for the plan. “I don’t think there’s anything more reasonable than fifty-fifty.”
Cuomo has said that the state took over paying for the subway years ago when the city was in financial crisis, but now that the coffers are flush, it should pay its share.
City officials said the governor’s request is ridiculous.
“After failing miserably to secure a sustainable revenue source, we knew the governor would be back for more,” said de Blasio spokesman Eric Phillips. “The mayor has contributed a record amount bailing out Governor Cuomo’s subway mismanagement. Rather than constantly asking for more from all our riders and taxpayers, the governor should pass a millionaire’s tax to fix the trains he’s run into the ground.”
Transit advocates skewered Cuomo’s statements, saying he’s not taking responsibility for the subway.
“Governor Cuomo controls the MTA. He also dominates the state budget process, the only legal mechanism that can raise the tens of billions of dollars it will take to fix the subway,” said John Raskin, executive director of the Riders Alliance. “The MTA now has a modernization plan but the governor still hasn’t put forward a funding plan for the Legislature to vote on, and riders continue to suffer through regular breakdowns and delays.”
Gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon also took the opportunity to knock the governor over his words.
“Straphangers are sick of this political blame game,” she said. “It is the governor’s legal responsibility to fund the subways. Period. But instead of accepting his responsibility, Andrew Cuomo tries to place the blame on everyone else, including, now, the taxpayers.”
Cuomo and de Blasio fought for 10 months over whether the city should pay $418 million for half the cost of MTA Chairman Joe Lhota’s Subway Action Plan, a program launched a year ago to staunch delays.
Cuomo finally asked the state Legislature to pass a law requiring the city to pay and the de Blasio administration coughed up the cash.
MTA unveils new travel app for public testing
The MTA now has one app to rule them all.
A new app that covers all modes of travel at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority — subway, bus and rail — was released Monday, as the agency also updated its main website to make it easier to navigate.
It details delays, planned work, service changes and real-time arrivals, while letting riders plan trips and find nearby stations. It’ll also track escalators and elevator outages.
Riders can download the app and test out the beta version — MTA officials will be collecting passenger feedback.
“This is about getting to our customers and putting information in their hands,” MTA managing director Ronnie Hakim said.
Riders who use the MYmta app will be able to buy Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road tickets by the end of the summer.
There is currently separate MTA apps called eTix to pay for commuter rail trips and Subway Time for train trip arrivals and disruptions.
The app will also let subway and bus riders use their phones to pay for trips once the MetroCard is retired.
The MTA had avoided getting into the app game — agency officials instead handed its trip data to third-party developers, leading to a proliferation of apps.
“One of the things our customers have said, they like to hear from us directly,” Hakim said. “They have a sense that there is an integrity to the data we’re providing.”
Nick Sifuentes, director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, was an early tester of the MYmta app. He appreciated how it combines helpful travel information into a single app, instead of making riders look for different apps.
“Riders, millions of them, every single day, are going to say, ‘Oh, man, I don’t know how I got around without being able to use this app for my trip planning,’ ” Sifuentes said.
The MYmta app will also get an update this summer to let people who use wheelchairs or have disabilities book an Access-A-Ride trip.
Access-A-Ride traveler John Hatchett, 58, helped the MTA test out the app and gave feedback. One feature he appreciated is that an accessibility section was included in the app, instead of a separate app.
“I really felt like we’ve been listened to about not only what’s not working but what we would like to see to make it work better,” Hatchett said.
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